Academic journal article English Language Teaching

English in Eastern Ethiopia Is Learnt; Not Mastered

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

English in Eastern Ethiopia Is Learnt; Not Mastered

Article excerpt

Abstract

English Language Teaching (ELT) has undergone immense changes over the years in terms of using different methods, but none of the methods till this date have proved what they had proclaimed. The paper believes in the hypothesis that learning is understanding the linguistic components of a language, whereas mastering is the part of using them in a well structured way with perfection and ease. Viewing this dichotomy between learning and mastering, the paper examines a problematic discourse: English in Eastern Ethiopia is often learnt; but not mastered. The broad concern of the paper is to draw the attention of the local and global ELT practitioners towards the dismal state of English in Eastern Ethiopia. In this pursuit, the paper set three prime objectives: (i) exploring global and local uses of ELT methods, (ii) exploring major linguistic and non-linguistic impediments in mastering English, and (iii) proposing an empirical approach to overcome the impediments from remedial perspective. Participant observation, unstructured Interview, and document analysis were employed to gather the data, whereas analytic induction was used to analyze the data. Under findings, seventeen linguistic and non-linguistic impediments were found as serious deterrents in mastering English. From remedial perspective, the paper proposes an empirical Integrated Iconic Approach to overcome the linguistic impediments followed by seventeen apposite recommendations to pave the path of quality English education in Eastern Ethiopia.

Keywords: learning, mastering, ELT (English Language Teaching), ELT methods, ELT activities, English

1. Introduction

Today, it goes without saying that English has not only become a lingua franca for us globally, but more importantly it has become a language of progress or a key to success in every walk of life. In Ethiopian context, English is being used paradoxically as a foreign language rather than second language because average Ethiopians believe that English can never be a crutch to survive in Ethiopian society. In 1994, a constitutional amendment was made in which regional languages were allowed to be used as the medium of instruction in Ethiopia. Although Ethiopia's need for English language is more intensified as globalization is the agenda of the time, the 'depressing picture of English language teaching' never improved (Eshetie, 2010). English is foreign to most, and is known and used only by a small minority of educated, economic, and/or political elite in Ethiopia (Bógale, 2009). There is a grave concern among the EFL learners in the eastern Ethiopia that they have been learning English for several years but they are not able to master it.

Viewing the concern of the learners, the paper believes in the hypothesis that learning is understanding the linguistic components of a language and mastering is the part of using them in a well structured way with perfection and ease. If learning is process, mastering is product; if learning is path, mastering is destination. Mastering is aimed at acquiring utmost perfection in speech fluency, writing accuracy, stylistic nuances, word choice, accent, etc. Despite acquiring linguistic competence, the learners find it difficult to make their competence functional in real life situation for lack of mastering the language as illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1 shows the shrinking layers of item learning, system learning, natural learning, and mastering respectively. Item learning refers to learning a language at word level; system learning refers to learning at sentence level; natural learning refers to the state in which learner starts learning a language either inductively or deductively using generalization, under-generalization, and over-generalization (Krashen, 1987). It is noteworthy that item, system, and natural learning occur in the Ethiopian classrooms, but mastering does not occur as marked with (+) and (-) respectively. The negative state of mastering was also determined through a brief piloting of the occurrence of learning and mastering four vital components and skills as shown in table 1. …

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